Thursday, April 02, 2009

emerging churches: reasons and warnings

I received my May 2009 "Been Thinking About" from Mart De Haan, and it is on "Emerging Churches." It's really, really good (I think). Mart works for RBC Ministries, which is where our church gets the devotional Our Daily Bread which we give out for free. He also has a blog by the same name, and I don't know if the things I get in the mail eventually make it to the blog or not. I hope so, because I think it would be good for more people to see the entire thing. Hopefully he won't mind if I post a few tidbits here though.

I like how he points out the good things many emerging churches affirm (reasons for):
1. The triunity of God as a basis for valuing community rather than self-centered individualism.
2. Church as a mission, a conversation, and a movement of Jesus' people rather than just an organization.
3. Spiritual leaders who listen as well as teach, and who influence through example rather than authority and control.
4. A willingness to think through together the stories and mysteries of the Bible rather than just taking for granted inherited doctrinal statements.
5. Living and enjoying the Bible rather than just studying and defending it.

He also does a nice job of pointing out some issues in the traditional evangelical church that gave reason for the need to 'emerge':
1. Regarding ideas that are possible implications of the Bible as if they were necessary implications, absolutes, and tests of orthodoxy.
2. Emphasizing theology, favorite doctrines, and the letters of Paul rather than telling the stories of the Bible and of lives changed by Christ.
3. Giving the church a hypocritical reputation by politicizing homosexuality and abortion while ignoring sins of pride, racial prejudice, greed, and the abuse of women.
4. Interpreting and applying the Bible as if it were written to our generation rather than first trying to understand what it meant to the people living when it was written.
5. Seeing church authority as a matter of heirarchy and control rather than the example and servant attitudes of Jesus.

But he doesn't stop there. He also notes some of the opposite extremes the emerging church can go to as a sort of warning:
1. In an effort to honor the mystery of God and not go beyond what has been revealed, they may say less than the Bible makes clear.
2. In an attempt to live out Jesus' story of the good Samaritan, some emphasize social action at the expense of eternal considerations.
3. While talkng about a lifelone journey of faith, some are neglecting the decision that begins the journey.
4. In an effort to experience personally the way God can speak to us, some may forget that all of the New and Old Testament teaching is inspired by God for our spiritual growth.
5. While trying to avoid judgmental and condemning attitudes, some neglect what Jesus said about a coming judgment.

He wraps up by making a comparison to the churches in Revelation 2-3. I thought this was a very good, fair, and balanced look at the positives and negatives of not only the emerging church, but the traditional evangelical church as well. At least he expressed some views I have had (on both sides). I hope he makes this available online sometime. Very nicely done.